The story of resilience and development in the education sector in South Sudan doesn’t often make news, but in my recent visit to the country I have had the privilege of witnessing several of such stories. My blog post today is about one of them.
An engaged teacher….
This is a story of a head teacher and a school. Ayii Central Primary School is about 100 kilometers from the capital Juba, located on the transport artery of the country eventually connecting Juba with the Kenyan port Mombasa through Uganda. The school has about 500 students, half of them are girls. There are 12 teachers, only three are women.
Currently the school has only one room, which is used for storing textbooks and other learning materials. Classes for the junior grades are held under trees and the top three senior grades have the privilege of having classes under thatched roofs on the top of tree-trunk pillars.
The school received textbooks last year, credit to a project by the United Kingdom government. But apart from the books, there are only blackboards as a teaching tool.
A junior grade class under a tree and the senior grade classes in the distance
A senior grade class with only a blackboard
Head teacher Ogolli William Orem is from the local community and has been serving the school since 2008. He was very clear about the needs of his school and also told me how he managed to buy over 500 bricks with support from the community to construct classrooms. But the number of bricks fell rather short of the need and he was now waiting to receive more money to buy more bricks.
Mr. Orem mentioned that there are only two primary schools for over 3000 children in the Ayii Boma. The other primary school, near to the state capital, has better infrastructure and about 800 students. He wants to enroll more children in his school but without classrooms, he thinks, children will not come.
Support by the Global Partnership for Education
South Sudan joined the Global Partnership for Education in 2012 with its first General Education Strategic Plan which was prepared with support from the Global Partnership. The plan focuses on improving the quality of education, increasing access to education, and strengthening the capacity of the education administration including in the state ministries.
When a conflict erupted in December 2013, activities were brought to a halt and many assumptions made in the sector plan had to change.
While ongoing fighting limits activities in some areas, key results of the current $36 million grant program (2012-2016) are still achievable. One of those results is school construction like the Ayii Central Primary School. A total of 25 schools in 5 states will be constructed benefitting over 9000 students annually.
Here is what head teacher Orem had to say about the support from the Global Partnership for Education and future needs of his school.
The program, co-funded by USAID with $30 million, is also supporting South Sudan to start building a more resilient education system.
The first ever curriculum for primary education has already been developed as part of the program. The next step is writing new textbooks and teacher guides.
A Primary School Leadership program is also under preparation to train 9,600 school leaders on school management. School inspections for all 3,600 schools in the country is another area which receives assistance from the program.
The central ministry of education in collaboration with the state education ministries are developing standards for schools and inspection procedures. It is expected that a school supervision and inspection program will soon be rolled out for state education officers.
And most importantly, the quality of teaching and learning will be improved. New teaching materials, methods and assessment will be developed to improve the teaching
Despite periodic and in some places protracted volatility, the journey of literacy and numeracy in primary classes benefitting over 2 million students to stability and peace in South Sudan has started in its schools. The Global Partnership is privileged to be able to support this journey.